For the world says, “You have needs, therefore satisfy them, for you have the same rights as the noblest and richest men. Do not be afraid to satisfy them, but even increase them”–this is the current teaching of the world. And in this they see freedom. But what comes of this right to increase one’s needs? For the rich, isolation and spiritual suicide, for the poor, envy and murder, for they have been given rights, but have not yet been shown any way of satisfying their needs. (p. 313)
In the beginning of this section, we find that Dmitri has not only insulted his fiance, Katerina, but he has also insulted a certain captain named Snegiryov by dragging him out of an establishment with his whiskers. Snegiryov’s son, Ilyusha, bit Alexei’s finger to the bone in revenge, simply because Alexei was a Karamazov.
When Katerina learned of the embarrassment Snegiryov endured at the hand of Dmitri, she sent Alexei off with two hundred roubles to try to comfort the family. But, there was no way that Snegiryov, destitute as he and his family was, could accept it; he ground the crisp bills into the dirt with the heel of his boot after displaying incredible longing for them and what they could provide.
After this bit of plot, the rest of Part 2 consists mainly of thought-provoking ideas portrayed through Ivan as well as the elder, Zosimov. Ivan seems to be questioning everything.
“I must make an admission,” Ivan began. “I never could understand how it’s possible to love one’s neighbors. In my opinion, it is precisely one’s neighbors that one cannot possible love. Perhaps if they weren’t so nigh…It’s still possible to love one’s neighbor abstractly, and even occasionally from a distance, but hardly ever up close.” (p. 236-7)
He also voices his great discontent with God in the chapter titled Rebellion:
And it is my duty, if only as an honest man, to return it as far ahead of time as possible. Which is what I am doing. It’s not that I don’t accept God, Alyosha, I just most respectfully return him the ticket.”
“That is rebellion,” Alyosha said softly, dropping his eyes.
“Rebellion? I don’t like hearing such a word from you,” Ivan said with feeling. (p. 245)
But, in Ivan’s “poem”, The Grand Inquisitor, he continues with his rebellion. He maintains that what man wants from God is miracles, yet what God wants is faith:
But you did not know that as soon as man rejects miracles, he will at once reject God as well, for man seeks not so much God as miracles. And since man cannot bear to be left without miracles, he will go and create new miracles for himself, his own miracles this time, and will bow down to the miracles of quacks or women’s magic, though he be rebellious, heretical and godless a hundred times over. You did not come down from the cross when they shouted to you, mocking and reviling you: “Come down from the cross and we will believe that it is you.” You did not come down because, again, you did not want to enslave man by a miracle and thirsted for faith that is free, not miraculous. You thirsted for love that is free, and not for the servile raptures of a slave before a power that has left him permanently terrified. But here, too, you overestimated mankind, for, of course, they are slaves though they were created rebels.” (p. 256)
Rather than faith, Ivan maintains that the stronger force is the Karamazov nature:
“There is a force that will endure everything,” said Ivan, this time with a cold smirk.
“The Karamazov force…the force of the Karamazov baseness.”
“To drown in depravity, to stifle your soul with corruption, is that it?”
“That, too, perhaps…only until my thirtieth year maybe I’ll escape it, and then…”
“How will you escape it? By means of what? With your thoughts, it’s impossible.”
“Again, in Karamazov fashion.” (p. 263)
Contrast this ideology with Zosimov’s last words, summarized for us by Alexei:
“Yet the Lord will save Russia, as he has saved her many times before. Salvation will come from the people, from their faith and their humility. Fathers and teachers, watch over the faith of the people-and this is no dream: all my life I have been struck by the true and gracious dignity in our great people. ” (p. 316)
When I compare this statement with Ivan’s, I find that the Karamazovs (in general) appear to refute Zosimov’s belief in Russia’s people. In fact, we are presented with this very disturbing fact in Part 2: if Fyodor Pavlovich should die, many people may benefit financially. Dmitri knows that his father has three thousand roubles sealed in a big envelope, tied with a ribbon and addressed to Grushenka (also known as Agrafena Alexandrovna).
“Besides, he considers that same three thousand, sir, as if it was his own, and he told me so himself: ‘My father,’ he said,’still owes me exactly three thousand.’ And on top of all that, Ivan Fyodorovich, consider also a certain pure truth, sir: It’s almost a sure thing, one must say, sir, that Agrafena Alexandrovna, if only she wants to, could definitely get him to marry her, I meant the master himself, Fyodor Pavolvich, sir, if only she wants to-well, and maybe she’ll want to sir…And she’s quite clever in her mind, sir. Why should she marry such a pauper as Dmitri Fyodorovich, sir? And so, taking that, now consider for yourself, Ivan Fyodorovich, that then there will be nothing at all left either for Dmitri Fyodorovich, that then there will be nothing at all left either for Dmitri Fyodorovich, or even for you , sir, along with your brother Alexei Fyodorovich, after your father’s death, not a rouble sir, because Agrafena Alexandrovna will marry him in order to get it all down in her name and transfer whatever capital there is to herself, sir. But if your father was to die now, while none of this has happened, sir, then each one of you would get a sure forty thousand all at once, even Dmitri Fyodorovich, whom he hates so much, because he hasn’t made his will, sir…” (p. 273)
Like the very voice of Satan, here Smerdyakov plants the seeds of doubt and greed into Ivan’s mind. If his father was to die, the three sons would greatly benefit; miracle, faith, or salvation be damned.
Find other posts on Part 2 here: